Seared Salmon for Summer

IMG_0073[2]

This is one of my favorite summertime recipes. Seared salmon with avocado and endive bathed in tangerine vinaigrette. It’s a fast dish to prepare, which is always good when the weather’s breaking records. I heard it’s going to reach 100 degrees in Paris next week. Amazing. Anyway, in addition to being quick, this dish brings together an incredible blend of satisfying flavors that play off the richness of the salmon. You have to try it.

Here’s what you’ll need to serve four:

Salmon fillet, skin off, big enough to yield four 6oz pieces
Three Haas avocados
Three Belgium endives
Dijon mustard
Lemon juice
Very good extra virgin olive oil
Champagne vinegar
Tangerine juice
Red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Finely ground white pepper

The preparation:

First make the tangerine vinaigrette. In a small pan bring 1 Cup tangerine juice and 1 tsp red pepper flakes to a boil, reduce by 1/2, cool, then place in a small bowl with 2 TBS Champagne vinegar. Whisk in 1/2 cup olive oil and season with salt and black pepper.

Next the avocado and endive. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 TBS Dijon, 1/4 Cup lemon juice, 1/4 Cup olive oil, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Add the avocado, cut into 1-inch chunks and the endive, cut into one inch rounds, separated. Toss well.

Now, lightly rub olive oil on the salmon filets, generously season with kosher salt and white pepper and place on a very hot pan or grill to cook for five minutes or so on each side depending on thickness.

To finish the dish, place a mound of avocado and endive on each plate, add the grilled salmon and drizzle with tangerine vinaigrette.

My thanks to the marvelous Mario Batali for the ideas behind the tangerine vinaigrette. And to the talented and prolific Ina Garten for the original avocado with endive recipe.

Share

An Evening at Esca

I once tried to dine in as many of the most outstanding Italian restaurants in New York City as possible, back when I was lucky enough to end up in The City for a few days on business each and every month for a period of about five years. What an experience.

Now that I’m not getting into Manhattan as often as I used to, I tend to visit old favorites over and over. And at the top of my list, at least for now, is Chef David Pasternack’s Italian seafood restaurant, Esca. My wife and I adore this comfortably sparse, ochre colored trattoria that could easily be tucked away on a fashionable street in Rome. Attention is paid to every detail. Especially in the kitchen.

The menu starts with small plates of impeccably pristine, raw seafood the chef calls Crudo. Things like red snapper with meyer lemon and olive oil, black sea bass with toasted pine nuts, razor clams with chilis, scallions and mint. Simple, satisfying and delicious. A must to start a meal here. There are also other starters that shouldn’t be missed. Like grilled octopus. Last time I was there it was served with corona beans and preserved sorrento lemon. It was one of the best octopus dishes I’ve had. Then, as a Primi I shared an order of perfectly cooked linguine with bottarga, tart and tasting of the sea as only dried mullet roe can. That was followed by a Secondi of slightly smokey, grilled soft shell crabs. Another, satisfying, straight forward dish, that echoed the intense Italian sensibility that characterizes all of Pasternack’s offerings. Lovely wines too.

Can’t wait to get back.

Esca / 402 West 43 ST New York City
212-564-7272 / www.esca-nyc.com

Share

A Real Taste of Greece

IMG_1776

I have to admit that on every trip to Greece, and there have been many, I managed to eat grilled octopus at least once a day for the entire time I was there.  It was that good. The satisfying taste of smoke and sea was addictive. For me it was a dish that had to be on the table, along with a classic horiatiki salad, marides, those fried little white bait, and a whole grilled fish, or, maybe, pan seared red mullet, a fish known and prized since ancient times. 
 But it was the taste of octopus that always haunted me.  Sadly, back in the states, I could never find the object of my desire.  Not in markets.  Not in restaurants.   So, for many years, I resolved myself to a life without those addictive, tasty grilled tentacles on my table.

That all changed, however, when some adventurous grocery stores and markets began carrying what I’d been craving.  To this deprived Greek-American food guy, that was seriously exciting.  The only thing left for me to do was learn to cook the creature.  Like a real Greek.  Which I finally did.  It’s not as difficult as you might think. In fact, it’s easy. I’ll tell you how in another post.

Right now, what’s crazy for me is that octopus seems to be everywhere. It’s become truly ubiquitous. From top New American restaurants in major markets to scores of modest Italian and Greek places across the country. On my last trip to New York, it was on the menu of every restaurant I visited, Esca, Babbo, Gato, Perry Street, and Milos. Of course, I had to try it in each of them. The only disappointment was at Babbo. Too tough. You can even find more than a few decent octopus dishes where I live here in Sarasota, Florida.

May be what some people are saying is true — octopus is the new calamari! Even so, when ever it comes off of my grill at home, it always reminds me of Greek island evenings and Athenian tavernas.

Share

My Latest Book

Template_Jacket_9x9

It all started at the beach when I read a translation of the Greek wedding service to my sister and my soon-to-be-wife on the timeless Cycladic island of Sifnos, the day before my marriage in a tiny, icon-filled, 16th Century chapel there. That’s when I first became aware of the exceptional beauty of what is thought to be the most ancient of all Christian wedding ceremonies.

Since then, those Greek island memories have become ever more present in my life. So much so that not long ago I decided to write and publish a book about the Orthodox wedding ceremony. I wanted it to be a very special “gift book” explaining the ceremony and its symbolism based on conversations with the clergy, filled with original art illustrating an easy-to-understand text. And that’s just what it turned out to be.  The talented Evangelia Philipidis created the captivating art to go with my text.  I know it’s hard to believe, but up until now a book like this didn’t exist.  

Know anyone getting married in the Greek Church?  If you do, you might want to think about the book as an engagement or wedding gift.  The Greek Orthodox Wedding Book is available in many Greek church bookstores around the country and on Amazon.

cupidpsyche_1

“Long before there was a Greek Orthodox Church, back in pagan, ancient Greece there was a certain time of year when most couples married. Classical scholars say it was in winter.”

“Various superstitions compelled the ancient Greeks to be married at night, during a full moon. The most common month for couples to marry was called Gamelion, which means “wedding month” in ancient Greek. We call that month January.”

inthevestibule_1

“The Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony is unique among Christian marriage ceremonies in that this ancient Orthodox rite has remained primarily unchanged for centuries.”

“Another aspect that sets the ceremony apart from other wedding rituals is that the bride and groom do not exchange vows. Instead, it is their presence before Christ, the priest and the congregation that signifies their wish to be joined in holy matrimony.”

kombarowstephana2_1

“The role of a koubaros is similar to that of a best man, but he plays a much more active part in the Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony, both spiritual and financial.”

“Custom dictates that he is responsible for tipping the priest, as well as buying the koufeta favors, alter candles and even the couple’s stephana or crowns.”

throwingrice_1

The Greek Orthodox Wedding Book contains twenty nine original illustrations; all are available through ArtSource as fine art prints.

Share